TOKEN Magazine

TOKEN Magazine

Last week I decided to make my own print zine. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time, and gaining the experience that I did during my year as a Flight 1000 Associate, I finally feel it is time to do it.

TOKEN Magazine is an arts and literature zine that gives a voice to those who are rarely given one. The name comes from the experience many people of colour face in everyday life: tokenism. TOKEN Magazine is an outlet to work against that – diversity of voice is essential to the magazine, not an afterthought.

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We are currently open for submissions from writers of fiction and non-fiction, artists and illustrators. TOKEN Magazine is particularly looking for submissions from people underrepresented in the media.

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Please see the submissions page here for more details.

If you have any questions please feel free to comment on this post or email tokenmagazine@gmail.com.

I already have a feeling it’s going to be a really great issue, and I’m so excited!!

 

Sara xoxo

2016 Roundup

Musings

To say 2016 was busy would be an understatement. Since my last post I did even more as a Flight Associate, such as co-curating a talk with the Folio Society on the authenticity paradox in writing that was presented at the British Library. We were given the opportunity to meet with amazing editors such as Jacob Ross, Ellah Allfrey and Max Porter. Gaining advice from such experienced editors was absolutely invaluable, and I learnt a great deal. We attended publishing events and talks, and were given formal training. Spread The Word really do amazing writer workshops (such as one I did last year with Steve Tasane about the opener of your novel – he provided us with such detailed feedback – it was honestly amazing!) So if you’re like I was and interested in pursuing a career as an editor  and writer these types of schemes are hugely helpful, and if in doubt apply (when I applied I didn’t think I really stood a shot, and here we are).

Being Co-Editor of Flight Journal itself was an experience; we were inundated with submissions for both Issue 2 and Issue 3, and it was so much fun reading through the submissions and taking the works from submission to their published form on the site. I also realised that I have a knack for design through rebranding the website and creating marketing material – these types of schemes really make you learn things about yourself. Issue 3 came out in December 2016 – if you haven’t already checked it out take a look here. Also be sure to keep checking the site if you’re a budding writer as the 2017 Flight Associates will be calling for submissions sometime this year.

Despite all this I have to say I didn’t write much in 2016 – and this is something I am keen to change (dare I say it’s a new year’s resolution?) So watch this space! I have so many ideas for stories and articles floating about and I feel like this year I actually have the time to put pen to paper. I did write a few bits which I’ll go into a bit more detail in another post, but not much fiction writing. I have been given the advice that being a writer and editor is a task, and it doesn’t always work. This year I really want to focus on my writerly side more, and take time for myself.

What I’m Up To

Musings

I feel like I haven’t written anything on here for a while, but a lot has happened since I started this blog with the intention to write more light-hearted (in the sense that they are not perfectly polished) stories.

I was so pleased when I found out I got a place on Spread The Word’s Flight Scheme. A scheme that helps three people each year gain more publishing skills, as well as giving them the time to write more. I’ve been in the scheme only three months and I’ve started a Proofreading course at the Publishing Training Centre, attended Bare Literature festival (you can read a thought piece I wrote here, and interview with Haris Durrani here), gone to an amazing workshop with writer Steve Tasane , and attended a talk with literary agent Jo Unwin. As well as having weekly talks with my team about our next steps for the online fiction site Flight Journal. It’s been amazing and just what I needed.

I’m also revisiting my first ever novel Zara Freej & The Monopoly of Magic (or maybe I will change it to Monopoly of Magic – who knows?) I feel like this is the year I will really sort the book out. I’ve been putting it off for years (six to be precise). I’ve finally realised key changes that need to be made to the setting, and recently the point of view. It’s really exciting. But really time consuming. Hence why I’ve not had the chance to write more short fiction.

In addition to this, I’ve recently started a part-time role at Penguin Random House as a Data Archivist (a production role). I love being in the publishing environment (and of course the staff discount), and it is putting me one step closer to my goal to work in editorial publishing next year. So, yeah, it’s all very busy and exciting.

So I doubt I’ll be able to churn as many out, and I also want to take my time writing short pieces that could potentially be sent for competitions (ambitious maybe). That said, I usually write the stories in coffee shops when I’m in a certain mood, so still watch this space.

I’m also going to the London Book Fair in a few weeks so I can update you all on that with fun pictures and a thought piece!

Sara xoxo

 

 

A Solitary Island

Short Story

The girl, lets call her Debra, had a perfectly fine life. A nice room in a nice flat, a family that loved her, a decent graduate job, a boyfriend, and good health. Debra was known for being silly and self-conscious at times but overall she seemed like a happy person. She was fair skinned, blonde, pretty with a good body. Colleagues would describe her as ‘highly motivated’ and a girl that ‘always looked on the bright side’.

 

All in all, she was categorised as normal.

 

Debra was often a couple of minutes late for work. Debra would tell her colleagues: ‘I just slept through my alarm again. It’s so weird; I couldn’t sleep last night. I think I need to replace my mattress.’

 

Except that was a lie.

 

At night Debra would go to her flat, make spaghetti for one, go to her room, put something on Netflix and eat in bed. She’d continue watching for hours, not really enjoying the program, wishing she was outside, wishing she had the confidence to go outside alone. Debra lived in the capital city: London. Her friends from other cities would tell her she was crazy; there was a lot to do out there ‘go out and explore!’ Or Debra’s favourite was: ‘How can you be bored in London? When you’re bored of London, you’re bored of life’.

 

When it was around 10:00pm she would shower, return to her bed and look at Facebook and Instagram for an hour. Everyone is so happy. Everyone has so many friends, Debra would think scrolling through pictures of people she vaguely knew smiling. No one looked lonely. No one was lonely.

 

At 11pm she would try and go to sleep, but first she would check one last time if her boyfriend has text her back yet – but no. Even her own boyfriend didn’t like her.

 

Debra would then flick her lamp switch off and lay on her back for hours, willing sleep, willing an escape from the emptiness. Alas, no. Her mind would explore many subjects:

 

a) Why was she suddenly friendless? People-less? No one text her, or replied to her messages. She was alone in the world and was desperate for just one person to want to talk to her.

 

b) Had she always been boring? Debra was popular at school, played netball for her school team, and was able to get any boy she wanted then. But now no one cared to talk to her. Best friends slowly died away. Debra thought this was because they got boyfriends and didn’t have time for her anymore – or that they lived far from her and lost contact. At night Debra realised it was her. She was boring and that was why she had no friends.

 

c) If she suddenly died would anyone notice? Debra wondered. Her flatmates wouldn’t; they keep themselves to themselves. She supposed work would, and maybe her mum. That made Debra feel slightly better but also worse on the days that Debra considered killing herself.

 

d) Why did Debra struggle with every boyfriend she had ever had? She envied her friends who spent every day with their boyfriends, moved in together, and got married. Debra’s current, and past boyfriends, always lost interest after a while. They would see her once a week at most, squeezing her in-between boys nights out and fun things they’d do without her in the day. At present Debra had broken up with five of her boyfriends for this very reason. Was it so hard for her to be number one in someone’s life? When she saw her boyfriend Mike last he was hungover from a night out with his friends. Debra was feeling low so he told her to come round. When she got there they went straight to bed. Ten minutes later he was fast asleep. Debra laid next to him wide awake wondering whether there was a point to life. She wanted company, to feel wanted, needed even. Her insides were hollow.

 

Her bed was an island – a solitary island.

 

Then, she would sleep.

 

Her alarm would go off. She’d press snooze until it was 8:15am, giving her 15 minutes to get ready. In sleep she forgot about everything; she was at peace. It was almost like she was dead.

 

Debra would then stumble into work at 9:32am. 2 minutes late.

 

‘Sorry I’m late. I slept through my alarm again. It’s so weird; I couldn’t sleep last night. I definitely need to replace my mattress.’

 

The Adventures of Matty Bear – part 1

Short Story

SOUND IT OUT, STOCKTON-ON-TEES. 2008.

Sixteen-year-old Matty Thompson was in his favourite record store with his best friend Doug. Matty was flicking through the records, hoping to find a gem, but not sure what exactly the gem would be. Techno? Rap? Hip-Hop? Pop? He didn’t mind, and that was what was fun about the record store, Matty could lose himself and explore new artists and genres that he would never find looking at Amazon, or by listening to the radio.

They had been in there for an hour already, but the owner Tom encouraged people to stay for as long as they wanted. He wanted people to have a look, and Sound It Out did feel like a second home to Matty because of it. Everyone went to the record store: chavs, emos, disco lovers, metal heads – and lovers of every type of music. However, it was highly populated with men. Seeing a woman there was quite surprising.

Matty’s best friend, Doug, picked up a record and a smile crept up into the corners of his mouth. He lifted it so Matty could see it. Kanye West. Matty was about to speak when he heard something behind him.

‘Open the cash register or no one gets hurt,’ the strangled voice said.

Matty whipped his head around to see the back of a man with a black hoody on.

Tom was behind the counter with his hands in the air. A look of pure terror was plastered on his face. Matty’s heart quickened as he realised the man had a gun.

‘Nobody move!’ The robber shouted. He turned and Matty locked eyes with him for just a second. Matty looked down but kept his body still. He felt sick. He wanted to see what Doug was doing but he felt too afraid to turn around.

The robber walked over behind the till, and told Tom to lie on the ground. Matty assumed Tom did it as he was no longer in view. The robber and Tom were talking about how to open the till in low voices, which afforded Matty the opportunity to turn to Doug.

Doug’s face was white, eyes wide and his mouth was open slightly in complete disbelief at how this could happen in Teesside, in a record shop. This wasn’t America, and Sound It Out wasn’t the biggest money-maker. It made no sense.

While Matty’s back was to the robber he took out his phone and dialled 999. It was risky but he couldn’t do nothing; it was a natural instinct. When Doug saw what he was doing his eyes widened even more.

‘And what exactly do you think you’re doing?’ The robber said, suddenly behind Matty. He grabbed Matty by the back of his hair, took Matty’s phone from him, put it on the floor and crushed it with his black boot. He stomped on it repeatedly and raised his fist to Matty’s face.

Matty closed his eyes in preparation for the blow, thanking his lucky stars that it was just a punch that was being thrown at him and not a bullet.

Then, something deep inside Matty changed, instead of fear he felt adrenaline. He assumed it was something to do with the fight or flight mode he had heard about in science. He always assumed he would be in the flight category; he had never been in a fight before and certainly didn’t want to change that. And yet, from the pit of his stomach he felt total and utter anger. And strength.

He didn’t want to punch the robber in the face, but somehow he did, not caring about the gun or that he could get other people killed.

With the blow Matty dealt the robber he felt something more. Deep inside him something rumbled and he felt intense pain throughout his body. Did he get shot? He looked down. What he saw made him think this was all a dream.

It wasn’t.

‘What the fuck, man!’ Doug yelled, backing away from Matty. Even the Robber moved away, dropping the gun and eying the exit.

Matty looked down at himself again. His body was furry, his clothes ripped. He seemed bigger somehow. Everything around him was blurry. He felt his face for his glasses and took them off. Without them everything was in pristine colour and sharpness. He could see further, and noticed small things that he normally wouldn’t have. He could see the bead of sweat run down the Robber’s face even though he was all the way across the room. He could hear Doug’s breath quickening, and hear Doug touch the handle of the door in a sly attempt to run.

‘What the fuck is going on!’ The Robber yelled, his voice breaking.

‘Leave now and no one gets hurt.’ Matty found himself saying. ‘Everyone leave!’ Matty bent down, picked up the gun and pointed it at the robber. ‘Put the money back in the till now.’ The Robber did as he asked. Tom must have still been lying on the floor and Matty thought that best right now.

The Robber looked scared. ‘I told you to leave!’ Matty roared. The Robber ran past him and left through the front door. Matty turned to Doug. Doug was stood paralysed. He didn’t dare leave.

‘Matty, is that you?’

‘Yeah, I don’t know what’s happening!’ The look Doug gave him brought a range of emotions to the surface.

‘You look like…a bear.’ Doug said carefully. Matty walked over to a mirror on one of the walls and saw himself. His skin was no longer pale but instead his entire face and body was covered in brown fur. His eyes were no longer blue/grey but were black, the pupils dilated. He was taller, but felt the same internally. He still felt like Matty Thompson.

Tom must have got up at this point. ‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’ He screamed. He grabbed the telephone. ‘There’s a wild animal in my shop, help!’ He said. Hearing this Matty ran, he ran out of the shop and to an alleyway.

Matty remembered feeling pretty cold when he and Doug walked from his mum’s car to the shop. Now, essentially naked as his clothes had ripped when he transformed, he felt warm if anything. The streetlights and Christmas fairy lights on some of the trees illuminated the dark street. Matty felt thankful that this hadn’t happened in daylight.

He did, however, find himself in a predicament. How would he get home? He lived in Carlton, a village a drive away from Sound It Out. Instinct took over, and Matty ran. He ran in the direction of his house, and throughout the run he felt no tiredness – none of the pain he would normally feel. Matty’s dad was a runner and always tried to encourage Matty to run. Matty in part out of stubbornness didn’t want to run because of this. Another part of him knew it would be hard, and it wasn’t something he cared to struggle with. But now it was different. He ran effortlessly. He could run for hours. Matty kept pushing back the questions that emerged with every step he ran.

He was lucky the path was clear, and that not many people saw him throughout the run. Occasionally someone would see, but they would double take and when they looked back he would be long gone.

He slowed down when he approached the pub next to his house. He felt himself shrinking, and it was a good job too because his dad walked out of the pub at the very moment Matty became his normal self. Matty looked down to check that he was all normal. And he was normal. And very naked. Outside. In front of his dad.

Outside.

And his dad’s racist friends were coming out of the pub at that very moment.

Matty ran to the door, but he already heard their roar of laughter. Matty slammed the door behind him. He could hear his mum walking from the kitchen at the back of the house to greet him. He grabbed the mail from the table next to him and used it to cover his crotch.

‘Matthew!’ His mum exclaimed. She put her hand on his arm comfortingly and ushered him into the back living room. Another door slammed.

‘I need to get dressed!’ Matty said trying to go to his room, but his mum’s hand was suddenly extremely tight on his arm. He tried to shrug her off but he was unable to do so. His mum was in her fifties; he didn’t expect her to have such strength.

‘Here,’ his mum had a pair of jogging bottoms in her other hand. When did she get them? Matty thought. ‘Doug called.’ Her grip loosened to allow Matty to put the trousers on.

‘What? This makes no sense-’

He heard his dad move behind him.

‘Matthew, we’re not human.’

 

 

MATTY’S STREET, CARLTON. 2008.

 

It was just past 3am, the sky was black, and all was still. The only sound Matty could hear was the swing he sat on creaking when he pushed himself forward. From where Matty sat he couldn’t see the seesaw or climbing frame that were just a stone’s throw away. This was only in part due to the darkness. When he changed forms he must have left his glasses at the record shop. They were most likely broken, not that he could ever go back there. When he was a bear he saw everything clearly without his glasses. When I was a bear, Matty thought horrified.

Earlier that night his sweet mum and straight faced dad sat him down in the living room and explained that he was only part human, and that they were like him too.

 

‘We were not sure when you would change,’ his mum had said.

‘We were expecting it though,’ his dad grumbled. He noticed his dad was unusually shaken up considering his mum’s reaction, and also that he was a bit tipsy from being in the pub earlier.

There was a short silence.

‘How many?’ Matty’s dad asked.

‘How many what?’

Matty’s mum gave his dad an angry look. ‘Not now, please.’           

‘I want to know.’ Matty only just realised his dad had not looked him in the eye since he saw him naked outside of the house. When it became clear Matty did not know what his dad meant, his dad raised his voice. ‘How many people did you kill, Matthew?’

‘Kill?’ Matty said confused.

‘It’s okay. When I first changed I killed some people. It happens. But we need to know.’

‘What?!’ Matty got up from the sofa, walked into the kitchen area and had his back to his parents. He shut his eyes tightly. This had to be a dream, he thought repeatedly. He opened his eyes and was faced with the Golliwog teapot that his mum had on show with her other teapots of high value. Out of instinct he almost complained that she really needed to get rid of it.

Matty’s mum and dad exchanged a look, but Matty didn’t see this. He hated not knowing things immediately; it was a major character flaw in times such as these.

‘You have to tell me what you mean.’ Matty said.

His dad explained that when a bear-man/woman first transforms, something that usually happens around puberty, he/she cannot control his/her rage, and consequently lives are sometimes lost in the crossfire.

But Matty had killed no one, and his parents couldn’t believe it. When he explained fully that he, well, saved the day, they were flabbergasted.

His mum didn’t want him to go out; she was scared Matty would change again and someone may try and catch him. Or even that Matty may end up actually hurting someone by accident. After a lot of probing he was allowed to go to the park around the corner of his house. Matty lived in too much of a small village for anyone to be there past 11pm.

What Matty really wanted was to test his new form, and to be different from his parents, and their parents, and their parents. Matty wanted to use this power, deformity or ‘curse’ (as his dad had put it) to help people. He wanted to make a change.

Momentum built up within Matty. His blood felt like an overflowing kettle, everything was rising to the surface, scorching hot and sporadic.

He first noticed his hand change, it looked vaguely human and then within a blink of an eye Matty had a paw instead of a hand. His body soon changed also. The swing groaned at the sudden change in weight.

Matty changed. He became…Matty Bear!

He jumped up from the swing, and could see everything crystal clear. Then, he leaped up onto the climbing frame and looked out at the playground. It amazed him how acrobatic he was when he changed forms. His mum did say they only resembled a bear but in terms of characteristics they were speedy and strong.

Everything in his life that once confused him became crystal clear.

He finally knew his calling.

Zara Freej & The Soul Thief

Uncategorized

This is the first chapter to the sequel to Zara Freej & The Monopoly of Magic, the first novel that I wrote when I was 15 years old. I feel my first book is too rough to be shown, and my goal is to neaten it all up by December 2015. For now, anyway, here is an excerpt of the sequel, with a PDF of chapter 1 & 2 together (click here). It makes for easier reading. I hope a lot of what is going on makes sense without the first novel. I think as the story progresses it will all make sense, as is the case with most series. 

I stopped working on this project for around 6 months, but I’m acquainting myself with the characters and storyline now and I hope to continue it soon. It really surprised me reading it for the first time in months yesterday; it’s tone is a lot different to the Zara Freej & The Monopoly of Magic, and I think it does reflect in a sense my feelings last year when I begun writing the sequel.

I will make it my aim to publish a few chapters every few months. I’m around 30,000 words in so it should be easy to do. So keep watching this space for more.

I hope you enjoy! 


Firstly, I’m not allowed to tell a human about my heartbreak.

Second, I’m not human anymore.

I’m Zara Freej and my nineteenth birthday has just past. Oliver once said I was unlike anyone he had ever met before, and that I was his first and only love. Well, happily ever afters don’t exist and clearly neither did Oliver’s love for me.

***

‘We really need to get some furniture,’ Zara said softly whilst on her tiptoes, looking up at Oliver.

The bedroom was large with only a king sized bed, a large gold rimmed mirror, and two black clothes rails along the wall. They were stood facing each other in the middle of the room, inches from each other. Zara wrapped her arms around Oliver. He tensed and his jaw was tight. Despite this, Zara leant in further; she didn’t want what was happening to happen. When his lips did not respond to hers, Zara sprung from Oliver. A deep sigh escaped her lips. Oliver remained unmoving, statue-like in posture. The room that once looked fresh and promising to Zara, now looked cold and tainted.

‘Why don’t you like me anymore?’ Zara finally said it. Finally said what had been on her mind for so long. Her voice shook, and she stood with her back to him. She couldn’t look him in his eyes and ask him the dreaded, long-awaited, question. She wasn’t superhuman. She was just a witch. The silence that followed was painful. Zara almost regretted asking him; confronting Oliver was like a vaccine, painful but necessary. He was a rock sometimes. It was fine when they were just seeing each other at college but they lived together now, their relationship should have been different.

‘It’s not that,’ Oliver uttered. Neither Zara nor Oliver changed their position. Zara could see Oliver in the reflection of the mirror, and he was stood still with his head down.

‘Well, what is it? You’ve clearly changed your mind about us.’ Zara’s heart was pounding; this conversation was too serious. He could break up with me, Zara’s eyes widened at the thought. What frightened her the most was the possibility that she might not mind.

Oliver disrupted the pregnant silence. Zara could hear his heavy breathing, and knew he was fumbling in his jean pocket for a cigarette.

Then there was the flicker of the lighter, and Zara felt a flutter of irritation amongst her overpowering dread.

‘What is it you want?’ The simple sentence hit Zara hard. Oliver heard a thud.

He whipped his head around to see Zara clenching her fist, and there was an ever, ever, so slight dint in the rented room’s white wall.

They looked at each other in the eye for the first time that evening. Hazel and bright green fighting each other.

‘Why can’t you just say it?’ Zara pleaded but he just looked away. ‘Fine, I will. I’m not happy and I think we should end it.’ For the rest of the evening he looked everywhere but into Zara’s eyes.

‘If that’s what you want.’ A thousand different emotions rushed through Zara Freej’s mind when she realised the finality of this statement, and how this time it was real. Surprisingly, Zara did not cry, as she normally would have. Instead, she walked past the unmoving figure, grabbed her coat from the clothes rail and left without saying a word.

Once she was a block away floods of tears erupted and Zara had to stop. French locals stared at her, horrified and perplexed, morbidly interested in the woman blubbering in the Parisian streets like a child who had lost her balloon.

The difference was that Zara had lost her first love forever.